Cochran Shoals Birds

April 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm (Atlanta, Birds - Georgia, National Parks, Nature, Photography, Wildlife) (, , , , , , , , )

Yellow-crowned Night Heron munching a crawdad

It was a perfect birding day.  Warm, overcast, no wind, and — once away from the traffic — quiet.  Cochran Shoals is a unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, and its wide dirt trail is popular with joggers, fitness buffs, and dog walkers.  Aside from one other birder, I was the only one carrying binoculars.  How can somebody simply cruise by with music plugs in their ears and not enjoy the bird song or the flowers?  

Common (purple) grackle - in the right light they are amazingly irridescent

It was just humid enough to intensify the honeysuckle perfume, which is one of the hallmarks of living in the South.  It’s right up there with the song of mockingbirds and the scent of roses.

Yellow-crowned night heron in a perfect pose

The day’s highlight was seeing four yellow-crowned night herons in one small area, close enough to the trail to almost touch.  Three of them fished for several hours, and one just looked on while resting on one leg in a tree.  Like many other herons, they are masters of the slow motion stalk of their prey.  The water was so muddy I couldn’t understand how they could see the crawfish (crawdads to Southerners)  they aimed for.  Could they hear them moving along the shallow bottom?  Was there just enough of a dark shape moving for them to zero in?  They would creep so very slowly, nearly imperceptibly at times, to position themselves near the object of their desire, coil their neck and back muscles like an anaconda, and then strike with the speed of an object let loose from a taut rubber band.  Almost always they came up with a good-sized crawdad, which they tossed around a bit to get it in just the right position to swallow whole.  Fishing was good.

A big crawdad - gulped down whole

The snaking motions that precede the slow-motion stalk

There was also a fledgling songbird that had tumbled out of the nest before it could fly.  It nearly got stepped on by an inattentive walker, and when I picked it up a pair of pine warblers frantically responded to its alarming cries.  I had no idea where the nest was, so I tucked it in some greenery away from the herons, and after the parents settled down they began feeding it (and presumably its siblings.)

Baby pine warbler

Anxious pine warbler parent

A few yards away was another nest, that of a Carolina chickadee who had found a woodpecker hole.

Carolina chickadee with meal for the kiddoes

Chickadee hole

I thought the warbler migration would be in full swing, but I heard and saw few:  palm warbler (3),  six or seven yellow-rumped (myrtle), red-eyed vireo (9).   I did see a hairy woodpecker adding to his insect collection on a willow, before he flew off to feed his babies, as well as a pair of red-headed woodpeckers making whoopee on a dead tree near their nest hole.  There were several rough-winged swallows and a blue-gray gnatcatcher in addition to the usual suspects.

Palm warbler in willow

Hairy woodpecker male collecting insects for hungry mouths

The next post will be of the other natural beauties I found that morning at Cochran Shoals.  Stay tuned…

My gallery website

All work on this blog is copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre.


  1. The Pal Guy said,

    Stunning… absolutely stunning. great work my friend.

  2. Bob Zeller said,

    Great photos, Cindy. I love those Yellow-crowned Night Herons. I agree with you. Here at San Angelo State Park, I see people in their cars racing around, complete oblivious of the nature and wildlife nearby. They have no clue, how to enjoy the surroundings.

  3. Bob Douat said,

    Love the pictures Cindy. Very nice.

  4. Http://Www.Bovaalpaca.Com/Index.Php/Member/44555/ said,

    I seldom leave comments, however i did a few searching and wound up here Cochran Shoals Birds Cindy McIntyre’s Blog. And I actually do have some questions for you if it’s allright.
    Could it be simply me or does it seem like some of these comments
    look like they are written by brain dead people?
    😛 And, if you are writing at other online social sites,
    I’d like to keep up with everything fresh you have to post. Would you list of all of all your public pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

    • Cindy McIntyre said,

      I’m not sure what you mean by “does it seem like some of these comments look like they are written by brain dead people?” Can you explain what you mean?

      Also are you primarily interested in birds? Do you have a public site as well? Thanks.

  5. Serene Journeys said,

    Hi Cindy, have been trying to find good places to see more birds in Atlanta. Please let me know if there are places worth spending bunch of hours. Past couple of days, I have visited the Chattahoochee river on Cochran Shoals. I am not sure which season works best here. I wanted to see the wood duck but couldn’t find it. Any help will be appreciated, and the best months to visit the trail.

    Yellow crowned night Heron looks gorgeous.

    • Cindy McIntyre said,

      Howdy – I moved from Atlanta several years ago (was only there a year.) I enjoyed birding in the North Georgia Mountains and at Jekyll Island the best when I was there, and of course, Okefenokee. Happy birding!

      • Serene Journeys said,

        Any idea on Veery and Hermit Thrush here at Chattahoochee area, or both exist. I am unable to figure out which I saw as both looks so similar.

  6. Cindy McIntyre said,

    I always join a local Audubon society whenever I move. Try this one:

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